By Kay Lynn Roberts-McMurray
Just off highway 318, approximately 68 miles out of Ely, is a place called Sunnyside Whipple Ranch, owned and operated by Leota Johnson. For the past several years, Johnson has opened up her ranch to a program called Inner City Slickers, that helps troubled and at-risk youth in the community.
“It is truly the passion of my life to make a difference in each precious life,” Johnson said.
She welcomed everyone with a hug or handshake thanking them for coming out and being a part of what would be an inspiring event for the youth as well as the volunteers.
Michael McMeel, founded The Awareness Foundation, a non-profit charity that works with “at-risk” children. Inner City Slickers (ICS) is one of the many programs under the foundation that was inspired by the film City Slickers.
The “Slickers” learn what it’s like to follow the Cowboy Code of Ethics, which includes: Kindness, Dependability, Integrity, Keeping your Word, and Responsibility to name just a few. The ICS program helps build trust, respect and hope with each other, themselves and their horse.
Seeing a tall young teenager stare at the ground with his head down, speaking so softly you could hardly understand him, transform into this confident young man who is leading his team is a pretty incredible thing to watch as these changes occur right in front of you.
It’s not hard to see that McMeel is truly a passionate individual who has dedicated his life to making a difference in the lives of children all over the United States.
The Ely Elks served up lunch on Friday to the youth and volunteers, and presented ICS with a check for $1,000. The Ely Rotary served up lunch on Saturday, interacted with the youth by volunteering with the different activities and provided ICS with a check for $700.
What is Inner City Slickers? On the surface it is a program that gives at-risk youth an opportunity to have an “Old West” experience and understand what it is like to work with others. On a deeper level, it is a partnership between the youth and the community that says there is hope, we care and something can be done.
For more information go to innercityslickers.com